Kerry Diederich, Executive Director, Women and Girls in Soccer, updates us on their current projects, outreach efforts, and scholarship opportunities.
How are things at WAGS and what are you excited to be working on right now?
We are doing well and excited for the progress being made on controlling the pandemic so we can evolve back into more in-person interactions. Like everyone, we had programming affected by the pandemic and the nationwide closures, including coaching and referee course cancelations and reduced attendance at our only fundraiser, WAGS Rael Vodicka Memorial Tournament, held annually in October. We also encountered difficulties with counties in VA and D.C. having COVID orders not allowing tournament play, forcing us to regroup and find alternate locations to host our tournament. In the end, we were able to host a safe tournament for over 300 female teams and were thrilled to offer a sense of normalcy to so many coaches, players and their families, and allow players to have recruitment options in-person and through our provided video services.
Presently we are working on a three year grant we were awarded pre-pandemic in partnership with VYSA (Virginia Youth Soccer Association) through U.S. Soccer. The Innovate to Grow program will work to increase the participation of women in coaching within Virginia and D.C.
Our program, Accelerating the Participation of Women in Coaching, will offer free 7v7, 9v9, 11v11, and D-licenses to qualified female candidates across Virginia and D.C. All of the courses will be taught by female instructors and will offer childcare services/stipends for qualified candidates.
U.S. Soccer’s Innovate to Grow program was established in 2017 to help U.S. Soccer member organizations like VYSA launch new and innovative programs designed to grow participation of players, coaches, or referees in their markets. Courses are being coordinated now. The next one on the schedule begins July 15th for virtual instruction and July 17th with field instruction at Loudoun Soccer Park for the 11v11 and 9v9 Grassroots Courses. Contact Kristen (firstname.lastname@example.org) for information on registration. Courses will be being held at LMVSC in Alexandria in August and will be opened for registration soon.
In addition to the grant, WAGS will also continue to be a leader in hosting all female referee and coach education courses to empower women and girls to reach their goals through soccer. Courses are being planned now and will be advertised as soon as they are finalized.
USWNT player Ali Krieger, a Team VW brand ambassador, chose us as her charity to support. Volkswagen of America is the presenting partner of U.S. Soccer’s #GivingTuesday Campaign. U.S. Soccer’s sponsorship goes toward scholarships and non-profits that develop and nurture female soccer players and coaches across the nation. In a press release, Duncan Movassaghi, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing, said “Volkswagen is committed to the growth of soccer in the U.S. and what better way to do this than by supporting organizations rooted in these efforts.”
Last month was International Women’s month. Can you tell us a bit about what WAGS did this year to celebrate and honor the occasion?
This year, and every year, in March we prepare to award four $10,000 Adele Dolansky Scholarships from the many applications we receive. The scholarships support exceptional female soccer athletes to play at the collegiate level. Applicants must excel in a broad variety of extracurricular activities, demonstrate active participation in community service, and must be rostered and playing on a team accepted to and playing in the WAGS Rael Vodicka Tournament held annually in October. WAGS looks for individuals who embrace the qualities and characteristics necessary to play on an elite soccer team and who apply these qualities to her daily life. Recipients will be notified of their selection May 2021.
What can you tell us about your Worldwide Outreach program? Are there any new projects or priorities that we can share and help get the word out?
WAGS supports the University of Lynchburg Women’s Soccer Program and their WOW (Women of Worth) program which empowers women and girls in Africa through soccer. WAGS provided funding to open two resource centers in Uganda. The WAGS Gulu Educational Resource Center was opened in June of 2017 to help women and girls to not just thrive in their communities, but thrive in life. The contribution from WAGS provided critically needed computers, office software, supplies, and funding to hire a teacher. The Katwe WAGS Educational Resource Center was opened in 2018 and is coordinated and managed through the Robert Katende Initiative.
In 2019, the coaches and players returned to Africa to again empower the WOW girls they sponsor, and brought gift bags of needed items to include those sponsored by WAGS.
Currently, WAGS will continue to send yearly sponsorship maintenance payments to maintain the centers and the education and services they provide to the women and girls the centers support. In 2020, the support was critical as the pandemic had hit the area the centers are in quite hard; we were thrilled to be able to provide relief to the communities our centers serve. While we continue to support these centers, we will be looking to what may come next to expand our efforts in Africa.